Us and the US


[The extracts that follow under this gravely ungrammatical title précis a book published in 2014 called ‘A Tale of Two Nations; Uncle Sam from Down Under’.  That book sought to compare the key phases of history of the two nations under fourteen headings.  That format will be followed in the précis.  The chapter headings are Foreword;1 Motherland; 2 Conception; 3 Birth; 4 Natives; 5 Frontiers; 6 Laws; 7 Revolution; 8 Migration; 9 Government; 10 Wars; 11 Race; 12 Wealth; 13 God; 14 Findings; Afterword.  Each chapter is about 1400 words.]


If you want to understand something, it may help if you compare it to something else.  If you want to come to terms with what it means to be a dog, you can look hard at what it may mean to be a cat.  There is more to this than just looking at a portrait from different angles, or looking at a sculpture in the round.  By comparing one case to another, we get a cleaner view of the essential attributes of each – what distinguishes one from another is part of what defines each.

I should say of course that this notion is not new.  At some time many millennia ago, some of our earthly ancestors noticed that a stone moved faster downhill if it was smooth and round than if it was uneven and jagged.  Comparing one case to another to identify its properties is a process that it is at the heart of our experimental or scientific method, and the process that has underlay the development of the laws in England, America and Australia over more than one thousand years.

So if you want to try to see what makes one nation tick, as we say, it may help to look at it compared to another nation.  And a good way to start that process is by looking at aspects of the histories of the two nations that are being compared.  That is what this book seeks to do with the two nations that we know as America and Australia – to compare the two of them by looking at key aspects of the evolution of both of them.

This is not a potted history of either, but a collection of snapshots of each taken side by side as these nations negotiated some of the principal stepping stones in their progress across the stream of history.  I have the pious hope that what passes for the subject matter of the snapshots may be uncontroversial if not prosaic, leaving discussion only for the inferences to be drawn and comments that might be made, but experience suggests that such a hope is likely to be illusory and hardly pious.

Both America and Australia started out as refuges for rejected boat people, two terms of abuse now in some quarters, but although they share an original common ancestor, their stories are very different.  How, and why, is this the case?

I should disclose my more significant sources of prejudice.  I am an Australian white male, middle class professional, who is much closer to death than birth.  I have no political affiliation, but I have a mistrust of government in general, and politicians and their parties in particular.  My perfect government is one that has as little to do with me as is decently possible – especially the part that hands out speeding tickets.  I have made a handsome living from a profession that we in this country derive from England.  I have an unlimited sense of admiration for the contribution that England has made to the civilization of the West and to the history and character of both America and Australia, and an almost equally unlimited frustration at the inability of my nation to cut what I see as apron strings tying Australia to England, and to stand on its own two feet.  A dark cloud hangs over my descent to the dust – that I shall leave this earth before my country gets what I regard as its independence.  I have no belief in a personal God, but I believe that the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are a little like cutlery – they are what distinguish us from the gorillas.  As the white people took America and Australia, they committed crimes against the native peoples of those lands in ways that violated every part of the great religious laws that I have mentioned, but in common with most other people, I have no real idea of what to do about those wrongs now.

Doubtless other of my prejudices will become apparent to you as you go through this book, which I hope that you will enjoy.


Here and there – Gallipoli by Les Carlyon


When I visited Gallipoli nearly twenty years ago, my guide, a most affable former naval officer, was proud to show me the gun emplacements on the Asian side where ‘the sick man of Europe’ had stopped the greatest navy in the world – in circumstances that still excite misgivings and bad feelings, and not just down here.  I can’t recall now whether Ali said that the Turks were lucky that the British navy stopped the fight after only one day of its concerted attack, because the Turks were dangerously low on ammunition.  This would not be the last time in that war that the British pride in their navy operated to make them duck putting a critical battle to the issue.  That’s exactly what Lord Denning thought Jellicoe had done at Jutland, and Denning never forgave him.

We looked at those guns on our way to Troy.  Then, after a night at Cannakale, we returned to the European side.  We then spent about five hours going around the major sites, such as Anzac Cove and Lone Pine.  When we got to the summit of the ridge called Chunuk Bair, we could see the narrows of the Dardanelles.  My guide told me that the New Zealanders had taken this peak, and that if the Allied forces had been able to hold it, they could well have broken through and gone on to Constantinople.  In light of all the human misery and inanity I had been looking at that day, this hypothetical was hardly comforting.

Well, as Les Carlyon remarks more than once in his book Gallipoli (2001), the battles around Gallipoli, like those of the Trojan War, were full of ‘what ifs’ or ‘if onlys.’

The man who led the charge to the summit of Chunuk Bair was a New Zealander commanding soldiers from around Wellington and Otago, Colonel William George Malone.  He certainly looks the part – one of those solid, square-jawed six-footers that you see in the forward pack of the All Blacks, a man apparently born to lead.  (Some of the Maori units performed the haka before battle, to the bemusement of the locals.)  As well as being a land agent and solicitor with five offices, Malone was a farmer.  He had about 2000 acres around Stratford.  This is what Carlyon says of this farmer turned warrior.

Malone, tall and straight-backed, didn’t fit any of the stereotypes.  He was born near London but saw himself as a New Zealander.  He was of Irish descent and the temper of his adopted land was Scottish.  He spoke French and loved classical music.  He liked soldiering but was never going to make general: he was ambitious but not in the sense that he was prepared to win promotions over the bodies of his men; he was always going to be more popular with his men than with his superiors. He was bossy and petty, a man of tidy habits that bordered on fetishes, yet his men loved him.  Sixty years after Chunuk Bair, old men who had served with ‘Molly Malone’ spoke of him with reverence.  He was their father; he had looked after them.

If that is right, Malone was everything that most of his English commanding officers at Gallipoli were not.

Three days before his last on this earth, Malone wrote the following letter to his wife.

I expect to go through all right but, dear wife, if anything untoward happens to me there are our dear children to be brought up.  You know how I love and have loved you…..If at any time in the past I seemed absorbed in ‘affairs’, it was that I might make proper provision for you and the children….It is true perhaps that I overdid it somewhat.  I believe now that I did, but did not see it at the time.  I regret very much now that it was so and that I lost more happiness than I need have done.  You must forgive me; forgive also anything unkindly or hard that I may have said or done in the past….I have made a will and it is in the office in Stratford….I am prepared for death and hope that God will have forgiven me all my sins.

Malone woke his batman at 3 am on 8 August 1915 and gave him the address of his wife in case he got killed.  He shook hands with the man and said ‘Goodbye.’

The Wellingtons advanced sixteen abreast and got to the summit of Chunuk Bair with relative ease.  They were to be joined later by Gloucesters and Welsh Pioneers.  As Carlyon says, ‘thoughts of victory teased.’  But they also saw that the summit would be hard to defend.  In the area were Sikhs, Australians, Gurkhas and New Army boys.  Monash, Australia’s best general, was having what Charles Bean, the military historian, called ‘one of those black days’.  The young Kiwis astride Chunuk Bair were about to be put to the test that no sane man wants to face.

Some New Zealanders who fought on Chunuk Bair never saw the Narrows.  Malone didn’t stare at them for long.  He was a practical man; he knew that looking at the narrows was not the same as owning them.  He had to hold this awkwardly shaped summit; that was the first thing.  And after 5 am, when the haze lifted and the Turkish riflemen could see their targets, clinging to that summit became one of the epics of the Gallipoli campaign.  ….By 5 am the Turks were starting to pick off the Wellingtons.  The Gloucesters and Welsh Pioneers were shot down as they came up to reinforce Malone.  The Gloucesters on Malone’s left broke as they tried to dig in….  The Turks could creep to within twenty yards of the Wellingtons before being seen.  The front trench, which was too shallow anyway, became clogged with dead and wounded.  By 6.30 am, Malone was running a tremendous battle….The New Zealanders’ rifles became too hot to hold.

Even by the standards of Gallipoli and Troy, this was hell made flesh.  One Kiwi took a Turkish trench, and ended up standing on the dead and wounded.  He said the colour of the earth was blood.  The Wellingtons made short bayonet charges at the advancing Turks.  Malone himself used a bayonet.  It was buckled by a bullet.  An officer told Malone a man of his rank should not lead such charges.  Malone replied: ‘You’re only a kid – I’m an old man – get out yourself!’  A reporter on the beach later met a New Zealander with ten bayonet wounds.

Malone moved about all day amid this carnage trying to hold morale.  At about 5pm Malone was hit by a misdirected shrapnel burst that had come from either an Anzac battery or a warship.  He fell to friendly fire.

So died one of the grand and original figures of the Gallipoli campaign, a free spirit who could stretch his mind beyond the clubby world …and would stretch his integrity for no man.  It seems unconscionable that he received no posthumous decoration for his day on Chunuk Bair.  By the standards set at Lone Pine, he should have received the Victoria Cross.  In death, as in life, Malone was not much loved by those in authority.  He was always going to be an outsider.  Mater [his wife] took her three children to England during the war and never returned to New Zealand.  Malone’s farms were sold and his large family home burned down.  His son Edmond died of wounds in France in 1918.

The vast tragedy that engulfed the House of Malone could have come straight out of Homer.  It is within my personal knowledge that the Australians who fought in that war held two lifelong gripes against the English officer class – their incompetence or heartlessness in the field, and their lousiness in accepting the courage and competence of the colonials.  If medals are given to those who carry out their duty over a sustained period of time while facing probable death or mutilation, then in a just world, every one of those poor bastards on Chunuk Bair should have got a Victoria Cross, dead or alive.  Of the 760 Wellingtons who had arrived on the crest that morning, only two officers and 47 men remained unwounded.

They looked like the nightshift leaving a clandestine abattoir.  Their uniforms were torn and spattered with blood.  They had drunk no water since dawn and barely slept for two days.  According to Bean, they talked in whispers, trembled and cried.  Some bled to death and others went mad with thirst.  Some asked when the stretcher-bearers were coming and were told they weren’t.  Others prayed or hallucinated or passed out…..Some of the wounded from August 8 took three days to travel down…, attacked by flies the whole way, thirsty the whole way, covered in dust with bloody clothes stuck to their bodies.

The New Zealanders left on the summit were relieved later that day by British New Army Battalions.  They were swept off the summit on 10 August by an attack led personally by Mustafa Kemal in what Carlyon calls ‘death by avalanche.’  The Australian war historian Charles Bean dropped his guard at a time when people did not blush to use the word ‘race’.  ‘The truth is that after 100 years of breeding in slums, the British race is not the same….It is breeding one fine class at the expense of all the rest.’  Good God, did the descendants of convicts see themselves as ethnically superior to the stock of the Mother Country?  Well, putting race to one side, the nemesis of the British had intervened once again to save his nation from defeat at the hands of accursed infidels.

One Victoria Cross was awarded to the immortally brave New Zealanders who took Chunuk Bair and held it until they were relieved.  It was given to Corporal Cyril Bassett, a signaller.  Carlyon said that Bassett knew the truth about Chunuk Bair.  ‘All my mates ever got were wooden crosses.’

By contrast, seven Australians won the Victoria Cross at Lone Pine, two of them posthumously.  The British saw Lone Pine as a win.  Chunuk Bair was a loss.  We must suspect that the British were laying the seeds of what has become a vicious trait in the Australian psyche.  We don’t like soldiers who lose.  We turned our back on those returning from Vietnam, and we are now giving the same treatment to those who fought for us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The French lost more soldiers than Australia did at Gallipoli, but they were not a young nation in quest of a legend.  And statistics can be demeaning.  They can rob a story of its moral horror.  To understand that horror, and the ghastly sense of chance and waste, we need to be reminded of the story of Molly Malone and his men.  That story is worth more than all the charts and graphs on earth.

It looks to me that Carlyon told the story of Gallipoli as it should be told and that he is very sensible and fair in looking at those responsible.  Churchill’s conception was at best romantic – his family said he was always dangerous with a map in his hand – but his powers of persuasion turned the heads of those who should have known better.  Fisher was sceptical but erratic.  Kitchener was aloof and out of date, but the others walked in fear of him.  The command at home was divided and the overall strategy bears an uncomely resemblance to that of the English and Americans in Iraq.  Hamilton was literate and urbane, but they are not the qualities you need in an abattoir, and he walked in fear of his betters.  The original plan was to have the navy do the job, but the navy got timid, and Plan B was not thought through.  Then there was the incompetence or cruelty of the officers on the ground.

Two young nations sacrificed the flower of a whole generation in a great Imperial balls-up.  When Kitchener finally got to Gallipoli, he was driven to a confession, although this old man may not have seen it that way.  ‘The country is much more difficult than I imagined, and the Turkish positions….are natural fortresses, which, if not taken by surprise at first, could he held against very serious attacks by larger forces than have been engaged…..To gain what we hold has been a most remarkable feat of arms….Everyone has done wonders.’  Nothing ever surprised the Turks in this campaign.  The Minister of War was therefore admitting that his ignorance had led to the unnecessary slaughter of thousands upon thousands over seven months in pursuit of what was obviously unattainable.  When Kitchener told the ANZACS that the ‘King has asked me to tell you how splendidly he thinks you have done – you have done splendidly, better even than I thought you would’, those poor deluded remnants cheered him heartily.

Although I have made my pilgrimage to Gallipoli, and to the Western Front, the mystique of Anzac Day remains as impenetrable to me as that of the Holy Trinity.  I wonder what that hard head Molly Malone and his men would have made of it.  I can’t help wondering if their response might be: ‘Why in the name of God are you celebrating the campaign where good and brave men got slaughtered – and all for nothing?’

Carlyon closed his chapter on Lone Pine citing a letter home from a young soldier who wrote home to his parents in Hawthorn (Melbourne).  Private James Martin had given his occupation as ‘farmhand’.  He told his mum and dad that the troops had got a present from Lady Ferguson, the wife of the Governor-General – ‘2 fancy biscuits, half stick of Chocolate and 2 sardines each.  I think I have told you all the news so I must draw to a close with Fondest love to all.’

Private Martin craved a letter.  Across the top of his letter he scrawled: ‘Write soon.  I have received no letters since I left Victoria and I have been writing often.’  A little over a fortnight later, he died from heart failure, probably caused by enteric fever, and was buried at sea.

His enlistment papers gave his age as 18.  At the time of his death, he was 14 years and nine months.  Among his effects was a scrap of red and white streamer that he had picked up as his troopship left Melbourne.

It sounds like the poor little bugger never made it off the boat.  God only knows how his mum and dad took the news when the telegram arrived back at Hawthorn on the other side of the world.

Passing Bull 146 – Some bad rights


If I agree to paint your house for a fee, and after I start the work, I make it clear that I will not perform my part of the contract, then the law says that you can put an end to the contract and make other arrangements free of any further obligation to me.  If you do that, the law says I have ‘repudiated’ the contract, and that by ‘accepting’ that repudiation, you have brought the contract to an end – by the operation of the law.

In broad terms, that is what happened in the English Revolution in 1689, the American Revolution in 1776, and the French Revolution in 1789 and later.  The people said to their king, with the force of arms – ‘You have broken your word and you have not done your job.  We dismiss you and we will set up a new form of government.’  Indeed, the great French historian Marc Bloch said that the contract between a feudal lord and his vassal was a genuine contract to the same effect.  ‘If the lord failed to fulfil his engagements, he lost his rights.’  Bloch foresaw how this doctrine might be applied in the political sphere – ‘it was reinforced by the very ancient notions which held the king responsible in a mystical way for the welfare of his subjects and deserving of punishment in the event of public calamity.’

During the course of events that we label the French Revolution, the French had a go at defining what they called the rights of man.  They did it in 1789 and again in 1793.  People now generally go the 1789 model, when hope and innocence reigned.  By 1793, France and the world had seen the terrorism of the Jacobins.  They had to face the familiar problem of those who come to power by force: how do you stop others doing the same to you?

Article 25 of the 1793 French Declaration of the Rights of Man says:

When the government violates the rights of the people, insurrection is for the people and for each portion of the people the most sacred of rights and the most indispensable of duties.

This provision was not in the original version.  History suggests that it was most unwise to purport to give a legal formulation and blessing to a right of insurrection – the right to revolt.  Who will rule on the issue of whether the right has crystallized?  The answer can only be force of arms – if you win, you are the government; if you lose, you get executed for treason.

But some kind of claim to a right of insurrection was instrumental in a string of revolutions that cruelly bedevilled France for a century after 1789.  And it still works to stand in the way of reform in France.  Industrial action there is a form of insurrection.  Social positions get entrenched as matters of status to an extent that is medieval – or even feudal.  That was not what the revolution was about.  The result?   The public sector consumes 56% of GDP in France; train drivers can retire at 50; and the nation braces itself for more insurrection against the reforms of President Macron.

A century beforehand, the English had used a different tack.  Article 6 of the Declaration of Rights prohibits the raising of a standing army except with the consent of parliament.  If it is hard for a king to drive a program without money, it was even harder for the king to conduct a coup without an army.  The king had been neutralised, as history has since shown.  But the Declaration goes further than ensuring that the king would have no army.  In Magna Carta, the barons were in a position to dictate that the king would sign up for a truly life-threatening security clause that could be invoked if he were to misbehave.  The barons could in effect appoint themselves receivers to enter into and seize crown property.  Well, that would hardly do nearly five hundred years later, and William and Mary were in a much stronger negotiating position than King John.  Besides, English lords or knights from the shires would hardly have had any interest in or any capacity to take over affairs on Chesapeake Bay, or from the Begums of Oudh.  So, Article 7 provided, and still does, that ‘the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law’.  .

The incoming king was an experienced man of arms and a seasoned man of affairs. There can be no doubt that he appreciated the inevitable consequence of Articles 6 and 7 of the Declaration of Rights. ‘Your Majesty shall have no army unless we agree, but we shall remain armed whether you agree or not.  If there is a disagreement about how you discharge your obligations, and we cannot resolve that disagreement by negotiation in good faith, and our differences have to be resolved by the arbitrament of arms, we shall prevail and you shall lose.  Your best option then will be exile.’  If they had been in a mordant frame of mind, they may have given Prince William a sketch of the shed where they kept the axe.

Sir Jack Plumb said:  ‘The Bill of Rights had its sanctions clauses – there was to be no standing army and Protestant gentlemen were to be allowed arms; the right of rebellion is implicit.’   The phrase ‘right of rebellion’ may make constitutional lawyers blush, but Sir Jack may have had in mind the right of the innocent party to accept the conduct of a guilty party as the repudiation of a contract, so bringing it to an end.  Plumb had also said that:  ‘the power of the 17th century gentry was sanctioned by violence’ and that ‘by 1688, violence in politics was an Englishman’s birth-right’.

Or course, now that English political society has ceased to treat violence as its ultimate sanction, these constitutional provisions have become a dead letter, as they clearly should be so regarded in any civilised society.  This is not so across the Atlantic, where the American version of the right to bear arms serves to keep the United States in the race for the title of the murder capital of the world.  There they have, but refuse to confront, the problem facing the French after 1789.  A right simply to bear arms is useless unless the citizen can lawfully claim to use them.  Who decides that? The lethal American answer is the gun.

What is the point?  Declaring rights broadly is bloody dangerous.



‘Qantas objecting to what Folau is saying about homosexuality is beyond laughable.  I don’t agree with Israel but I’ve told him most explicitly that he must not back down.’

The Australian, 13 April 2018

Alan Jones with his characteristic humility.

Speaking later with reporters aboard Air Force One as Mr. Trump headed to Florida, Ms. Sanders added that ‘the president has been clear that he’s going to be tough on Russia, but at the same time he’d still like to have a good relationship with them.’

Another White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations, said Mr. Trump had decided not to go forward with the sanctions. Mr. Trump concluded that they were unnecessary because Moscow’s response to the airstrike was mainly bluster, the official said.

The New York Times, 17 April, 2018.

Well, he can recognise bluster when he sees it.

Passing bull 145 – Bull about independence


What does it mean to be independent?  The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says: ‘Not depending upon the authority of another; not in a position of subordination; not subject to external control or rule; self-governing, free.’  The root of the condition is not being dependent.  What does that mean?  ‘To be contingent on or conditioned by.’

Can I retain a lawyer to examine my affairs and then express an opinion on them that can be presented to a third party, say a government office, as independent?  Let us say that I am the only source of instructions to the lawyer; that I am solely responsible for paying the lawyer; and that the lawyer stands in a position of trust and confidence to me such that they cannot have an interest or duty that conflicts with their duty to me.  They are all typical incidents of the relationship between lawyer and client.

If you look at the definitions set out above, you will see immediately that there are difficulties, to put it softly, in my retaining a lawyer to present to a third party an opinion, however called, that is in any sense independent.  The lawyer depends on my authority, is subordinate to me (unless I want break the law), is subject to my control and rule and their opinion will be wholly contingent upon or conditioned by my instructions – and payment for services rendered.

So, when AMP and its lawyers, Clayton Utz, purported to present to a government agency, ASIC, a report or opinion of Clayton Utz that was in any way independent, they were chancing their arm, again to put it softly, but in cricket terms.  The accounts in the press of the evidence before the Royal Commission suggest that their stratagem was doomed from the inception.

AMP could at any time have stopped the retainer and the process.  The letter of instruction from the Chair of AMP asked to be notified of any ‘findings’ that mentioned members of the board or executive team.  What does this mean except ‘You are free to say what you like – unless we don’t like it’?  The wording is at best unfortunate.  Lawyers are not usually retained to give a ‘report’ or conduct an ‘investigation’.  They are certainly not there to make ‘findings’.  They give an opinion based on the instructions they receive.  Part of that opinion may relate to the findings that may be made by the court or other body that has the power to make them.

So, the problem was there from the start.  The evidence I have seen does not reveal the extent to which this firm had acted for AMP.  I gather it was substantial.  The relationship was obviously close.  The in-house counsel was a former partner of the firm.  He liaised with the partner handling the matter to get a result satisfactory to AMP.  One report says that he asked for the final say over the wording.  The Chair was also actively involved, so we know where the buck stops here.  She was also involved in protecting the name of the former CEO, who was paid $8.3 million.  Another high executive was protected.  The firm provided at least 25 drafts to the client, and the company now admits misleading ASIC on at least 25 occasions.  It is preposterous to suggest that the final document was in any sense independent.  It was an elaborate cover-up.

The law firm owed obligations of trust and confidence to the corporation.  According to its website, the firm expresses that obligation as follows.

Our key obligation:  We will perform the work with professional skill and diligence acting as your independent legal advisers.  We will act solely in your interests in any matter on which you retain us unless you ask us also to act for other parties in that matter.  We will not perform work for you if factors such as a conflict of interests prevent us from accepting your instructions.

There may be legal difficulties displacing that obligation.  But how can those obligations of loyalty or fidelity stand against an obligation to give an ‘independent report.’  At what point does the lawyer say: ‘If I carry out my retainer according to its terms, you the client will suffer damage’?   How does the law firm escape discharging that duty consistently it carrying out its key obligation?

The press reports are full of exclamations of shock.  People expressing shock are naïve.  Professional people commonly submit drafts of opinions to clients for a variety of reasons, some more pure than others.  ASIC used to do with people under investigation.  This Royal Commission will submit draft findings to targets.

What is shocking here is that a major corporate and a major law firm thought that such a crude stunt was worth a try on.  In other words, they thought that they had a better than sporting chance of convincing ASIC that what it was receiving was ‘findings made in an independent report.’  Heaven help us if AMP and its lawyers were right about that.  Is the reputation of ASIC so low in the business and legal fraternities?  Does AMP not know that the cover-up is usually worse than the original crime?

We cannot the comparison with ball tampering.  What is worse – the brazenness of the original act of cheating, or the inanity of the attempts to cover it up?


‘To both survive and succeed as Prime Minister in the coming months, Turnbull has to change.  If he is to lead the Liberal Party and defeat Bill Shorten and Labor at the next election, Turnbull has to develop a more political character or be prepared to take advice from those who have one.’

Dennis Shanahan, The Australian, 9 April 2018

What did we do to warrant such perpetual banality – about opinion polls, no less?


Industry super fund Cbus has been ordered to apologise to more than 300 of its members after the Australian Privacy Commissioner found it breached their privacy.’

Australian Financial Review, 12  April 2018

Am I alone to wonder about ordering someone to apologise?  What if they are in fact not sorry when they say they are?

Here and there – Courtesy, cutlery and gorillas


An Australian playwright remarked that the difference between us and gorillas was cutlery.  He may also have said courtesy.  Indeed, cutlery is a function of courtesy – rather than tearing at meat with our hands, we add a knife and fork to add custom, style, ornament, hygiene, and ritual to the meal.

The word courtesy originally referred to the manners of the court.  Now Debrett’s Etiquette and Modern Manners teaches us that ‘good manners means showing consideration for others – a sensibility that is innate in some people and in others requires considerable inculcation.’  (Well, it is Debrett.)

Consideration for others – that’s what makes it possible for us to get on with each other.  Good manners are the oil of communal life.  I saw many examples of this when over a long period I acted for about half a dozen members of the Establishment – with a big ‘E’.  They had very different views on matters in hand, that were reverberating in our public life, but one thing struck me about each of them.  Their manners were both impeccable and so seemingly natural – or, in Debrett’s term, innate.  You can forgive an awful lot in a person if they treat you and others with courtesy.

Here is an example.  I was coming along Collins Street, Melbourne in a tram with a client.  We were due to get off at different parts of the line.  But my client got off on my stop.  Why?  ‘Geoffrey.  One noticed that the rain has started.’  (Yes – he was old fashioned enough to say ‘one’.)  ‘I noticed that you didn’t have your brolly.  I do, and I can get back on a tram at the next stop.’  I beetled home that night in some dejection, wondering if I had done enough to teach my children good manners.

We are seeing courtesy subside all around us.  Technology and social media annihilate it.  Those people in the entertainment industry called sportspeople are above and beyond courtesy, and they get dirty if you question their right to claim that space.  There is hardly any courtesy left in politics – beside question time in our parliaments, a pigsty sounds toffy.

If courtesy is in truth the oil of communal life – and it is – then that life will seize up, as it is doing, when the oil is drained out.  Donald Trump is just the nadir of our decline.  He may just be the rudest person ever born.  He may also be the greatest bullshit-artist ever born.

Bullshit is a denial of logic.  Logic is the oil of our thinking and talking.  Logic therefore stands to our intellectual life in the same way that courtesy stands to our communal life.  Are the declines in courtesy and logic in some way linked?

Well, if you look at people like Nigel Farage in England, Pauline Hanson in Australia, and Donald Trump in America, you would certainly say yes.  They are all equally committed to the obliteration of truth and consideration for others.  Trump, in particular, has trouble putting a sentence together.  And we have arrived in the gutter at the confluence of our declines when the President of the United States fires Cabinet Ministers with a tweet.

Now the gutter overflows.  Our children and their children get to see women of a colourful past tell of their sexual liaisons with the U S President – and his efforts to buy their silence.  It is absurd to suggest that a man so exposed to blackmail could be entrusted with national secrets.

Well, we got used to unbridled sex at the White House with Messrs Kennedy and Clinton, but Donald Trump stands accused of sexual misconduct that was anything but agreed.  These accusers are respectable people.  They are believed – even by the Judas of the watery home team smile.  But these ladies – for that is what they are – are as old as decency itself.  What we now get is Stormy Daniels and a Playboy Bunny.  What are we supposed to say to our children?  From time to time, the world goes mad?

How is it that a once decent people – we can safely put greatness to one side – could fall so low so fast?  For an answer, you would have to seek out a very, very old German or Italian – someone born, say, in about 1925.

Donald Trump is guilty not just because he has no manners, but because he is frankly vicious.  But perhaps that is just two ways of saying the same thing.  And at least gorillas are free of bullshit.

Passing bull 144 – The inanity of red lines


King Lear is in many ways the Everest of our minds.  It is about a choleric old man who digs a hole for himself and his daughters, and then he keeps digging, until he goes mad.  As he descends into the despair of his madness, he says:

I will have such revenges on you both

That all the world shall—I will do such things—

What they are yet I know not, but they shall be

The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep?

No, I’ll not weep.


This wild ungrammatical rant sounds like someone we know, but, like so much in this play, when you watch the descent of this old man, you feel as if you are being cruel in yourself.  And there is something childlike about this dementia in the aged.  It reminds us of the story of the wolf and the three little pigs.


Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.


These thoughts – or something like them – come to mind whenever I hear that dreadful phrase ‘red line’ – or its soul mate, ‘line in the sand’.  Barack Obama will I think regret until his dying day using the term ‘red line’ regarding chemical warfare in Syria.  Who will determine when the event happens, and more importantly, who will determine what the consequences should be?  The policy of President Obama toward the problem of Syria, and other problems in the region, was otherwise so sane.  The U S should not intervene unless it knows just when and how it will be able to get out.  The recent interventions by the West in Syria do not satisfy that simple criterion, and on that ground alone, I would not support them.


Donald Trump, who is as stupid as he is nasty, compounded the problem with a tweet that included a phrase that has even more notorious baggage in this region – ‘Mission Accomplished.’  God save us all.

Since we are speaking of inane language, it is not surprising that Donald Trump comes to mind immediately.  We are reminded of children in the shelter shed at school making up the rules of the game as they go; or of Australian cricketers drawing the line about sledging; or the board of Cricket Australia drawing the line about another inane phrase – ‘being held accountable.’

Well, at least Trump had the courtesy to count, very loudly, to one hundred before he said ‘Coming ready or not.’


Half of all gun owners say that ownership is essential to their identity.  Fear is a factor: nearly half of male gun-owners say that they have a loaded gun ‘easily accessible to them at all times at home’.  According to the Pew study, ‘There is a significant link between owning a gun for protection and perceptions of whether the world broadly speaking has become more dangerous.’

The New Yorker, 12 March, 2018.

Who would want to live in the United States, the land of fear?  Do gun owners have something in common with some Harley owners – is it all about their willies?  Is their world more dangerous because there are so many guns?


A tweet from Tony Abbott.  ‘More unsubstantiated bile from @vanOnselenP.  If my office was so hopeless why is my former deputy COS now director of the Liberal Party and why does my former COS rate more highly than PVO ever did?’

The Guardian Australia 7 April 2018

Does that remind you of anyone?  Apart from the obsession with TV and ratings, there is the suggestion that being a director of a political party in some way gives a person standing.

Passing Bull 143 – Addition

Apologies – I was so mesmerised by ‘Send in the clowns’ that I forgot the Bloopers.

‘Now just imagine the reaction here in Australia if a comparable number of farmers had been brutally murdered by squatters intent on driving them off their land.’  Tony Abbott on Mr Dutton and white South African farmers.

The Saturday Paper, March 24-30, 2018.

Some Australians may have a similar view about murders committed by squatters.


Laura Ingraham of Fox News had tweeted that David Hogg, who had survived the most recent school shooting, had been ‘Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA…totally predictable given acceptance rates.)’

On Thursday, Ingraham tweeted an apology.

‘Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA,’ she wrote, ‘incl[uding] David Hogg. On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland.

‘For the record, I believe my show was the first to feature David immediately after that horrific shooting and even noted how ‘poised’ he was given the tragedy. As always, he’s welcome to return to the show anytime for a productive discussion.’

The Guardian, I April, 2018

Ms Ingraham may have attended the same Twitter school as the light of the life of Fox News.  In America it is par for the course to invoke Christ, or Holy Week, in the course of a crude political stunt.  She took a week off after this one.  Sky News is bad – but Fox News is a curse.






[This is a short version of a book ‘Terror and the Police State; Punishment as a Measure of Despair’, published in 2015.  The book focussed on France after 1789, Russia after 1917, and Germany after 1933.  The instalments will follow the 21 chapter headings that are as follows: 1 Terms of Engagement; 2 Enduring emergency; 3 Righteousness; 4 Good bye to the law; 5 Instruments of terror; 6 Civil war; 7 Waves of terror; 8 Degradation; 9 Secret police; 10 Surveillance; 11 Denunciation; 12 Fear; 13 Popular courts and show trials; 14 Scapegoats, suspicion and proof; 15 Gulags; 16 Propaganda, religion, and cults; 17 Surrealism and banality; 18 The numbers; 19 The horror; 20 The meaning?; 21 Common features; 22 Justification: Epilogue.  The short version is about one quarter the length of the original.  Each instalment is about 1200 words.]



If a revolution is a successful revolt, the historical justification of violence in a revolution is its success in overthrowing the old regime – plus some kind of judgment that the bloodshed and killing have all been worth it.  A revolution is merely a revolt that has succeeded.  If those who are revolting fail, they are liable to be executed for treason; if they are successful, they are ensainted as liberators and they form or provide the first government under the new regime.

The justification of terror or the police state must be more ongoing.  In the end, the regime says that it is justified in inflicting death pain or loss of liberty on some people in order to advance the interests of the people as a whole.  This will ultimately come down to a moral judgment – there are shades of a judgment that might be called political, but the ultimate criterion will be what we describe as a moral view.

For example, most countries in the West now do not believe that it is right to execute people who are found guilty of committing certain crimes – or any crimes.  At bottom, this aversion comes from a view about the sanctity of human life that is part of what might be called the culture of the West, and which is at least in part derived from the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.  It is no coincidence that the aversion to capital punishment does not run in many states where those creeds do not run, such as China or many Islamic nations.

On the other hand, the Western aversion to killing criminals is not absolute.  It is a simple fact of political life that the Americans were not going to try Osama bin Laden, or that if they had tried him, they would have convicted him and they would have executed him.  Hitler may have been tried – Churchill was against having any war trials – but all those major German war criminals knew what their end would be – and, we may be sure, they had known that for many years.

It follows that opinions about the French Terror and the Russian will change from person to person and from time to time.  Those who were prepared to stand up for Stalin were thinned down when Khrushchev disowned him, and they just about disappeared with the collapse of the empire that is now so lamented by Mr Putin.  For those outside Russia, the judgment of Solzhenitsyn was terminal.  The Communists had expressly adopted the Jacobins as their models.  The Russians had views about making a new beginning and being in the vanguard.  This led François Furet to make some observations (in 1978) that have since provoked discussion.

But these two notions – of a new beginning and of a vanguard nation – are now giving way.  Solzhenitsyn’s work has become the basic Soviet reference for the Soviet experience, ineluctably locating the issue of the Gulag at the very core of the revolutionary endeavour.  Once that happened, the Russian example was bound to turn around like a boomerang to strike its French ‘origin’…. Today the Gulag is leading to a rethinking of the Terror precisely because the two undertakings are seen as identical’.  In the first reign of terror, thousands were killed; in the second, it was millions.  And in each case, to what extent did the justification being offered on behalf of the killers improve on the proposition that ‘I need to kill you so that I and others can have a better life’?

One problem for those who justify terror in the name of the state is the same for those who justify killing in the name of the state – where do you draw the line?  It is like the problem that haunts all revolutionary regimes – if we could seize power by violence, what stops you from doing the same to us?  Bloodshed, we know, tends to breed bloodshed.  Is it the same with breaking the law?  History suggests that it is.  Each of the American, French and Russian revolutions led to frightful civil wars, as had the first revolution in England in the seventeenth century; the combination of violence and terror offered by the Nazis was in this and other ways unique, and no sane person seeks to justify any aspect of the Third Reich.  When you destroy the source of the law, you let in lawlessness.

It is not enough to say that Robespierre was in pursuit of a political ideal called liberty, whatever that might mean, or that Osama bin Laden was in pursuit of a spiritual ideal of one true faith – or that his pilots were driving into the arms of seventy-two black eyed virgins.  Something more than slogans and abstractions is required.  The facts are rather less clear or virtuous than the theories.  When the French Terror ended with the killings, as part of that same process, of Robespierre, Couthon and Saint-Just, it was in the hands of three professional revolutionaries, all three trained as lawyers, who had always been longer on intellect than humanity, and whose driven didactic virtue was fast going down the drain of a murderous amour propre.  Indeed, young Saint-Just was burying his memories of a misspent youth in a relentless hatred of the enemy that had turned him into a cold killing machine.  That kind of end calls for some human response other than justification.

Nor were you likely to take any comfort from any justification of the French Terror offered by the old school who liked to write history about a ‘class war’ that for all we know only existed in their imagination.  Albert Soboul accepted Robespierre’s proposition that ‘virtue’ as a fundamental principle of democratic or popular government ‘provides the guarantee that Revolutionary Government does not turn into despotism’  Soboul then said that the Terror purged the nation of groups considered to be ‘socially unassimilable, either because of their aristocratic origin or because they had thrown in their lot with the aristocracy’ or that ‘the Terror had the effect of cutting off from the rest of the nation elements incapable of being assimilated into society, either because they were aristocratic or because they had attached themselves to the aristocracy.’

The first proposition is falsified by all history, not least that of Robespierre; the second is falsified by the evidence and is morally revolting.  ‘If your membership of a group means that in our judgment you cannot live with us, you will be liquidated’ is a maxim that could not have been improved on by Stalin.  It would be in bad taste to refer to Hitler, but he did seek precisely to implement that world view.  Nor is it surprising to find Robespierre tersely noting that ‘the word virtue made Danton laugh.’

It remains, then, to say something about those who were responsible for our three reigns of terror, in France, Russia, and Germany.  Is it too simplistic to say that Stalin and Hitler were evil but that the French terrorists were not?  Those driving what we call the Communist Revolution may or may not have had altruistic notions about working for others, but before Lenin died, the basis of Stalin’s regime was set, and most now agree that the original scheme was flawed in any event.  Both Lenin and Stalin were in truth guilty of appalling crimes against humanity – Lenin possibly being the more morally culpable on the ground of hypocrisy alone – and their reputations are not as bad as they might have been mainly because Hitler and Mao would prove to be even more murderous.  The only thing that can be said in favour of Hitler is that he entered into a pact with Stalin which Hitler broke and for which Stalin killed him.


Here and there – Being a Conservative


The word ‘conservative’ is sadly abused.  Nasty people claim it.  So do fakes.  So, when the English conservative philosopher Roger Scruton writes a book called ‘How to be a Conservative’, we sit up and take notice.

First, some caveats.  On the very first page, we get this about ‘ordinary conservatives’:

Their honest attempts to live by their lights, raising families, enjoying communities, worshipping their gods, and adopting a settled and affirmative culture – these attempts are scorned and ridiculed by the Guardian class.

Don’t ordinary liberals or socialists, if there any left, want to raise families and enjoy communities?  Are there people around who scorn and ridicule people who do?  And is not the reference to the Guardian class an indication that the author may have succumbed to tribalism?  Does he stand for the Spectator class?  Then, a few pages later, Scruton tells us that he got his cultural conservatism ‘from the literary critic F R Leavis, from T S Eliot, whose Four Quartets and literary essays entered all our hearts at school…..’  Can I say that I have never met a man whose heart was so entered – at school, or at all?  As well as a tribal war, we may have a class or culture war on our hands.

But to business – Scruton refers to what might be the Conservative bible, Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution.  Burke did not believe politics could be reduced to a plan – he was opposed to ‘a politics that proposed a rational goal, and a collective procedure for achieving it, and which mobilised the whole of society behind the resulting program.  Burke saw society as an association of the dead, the living and the unborn.’  That is a very English position and a useful introduction to being a Conservative.  It’s a view I share – with other views, of course.

Burke was appalled at the popular revolt – in France or anywhere else.  Eventually, most of the world joined him in that revulsion.  When government fails, things get out of hand.  That’s why I cannot understand how people who claim to be Conservatives support popular revolts – the position that we now call ‘populism’.  How can someone who claims to follow Edmund Burke also claim to follow Farage, Hanson, or Trump?  God only knows what Burke may have said (and Burke was not short-winded).

Then we get eight chapters seeking to find the truth in eight –isms.  Did anything good ever come out of an –ism?  Are we comfortable with a search for truth in abstractions like Liberalism or Environmentalism?  If we are going to find truth in each of these –isms, of which Conservatism is the last, then are we not in for long journey in political or ideological Multiculturalism –another of the eight – isms?  For example, under the truth in Socialism we get:

But socialism means, for most of its advocates, a political program designed to secure for all citizens an equal chance of a fulfilling life….That idea of social justice may not be coherent.  But it speaks to sentiments that we share….Hence British conservatives in the nineteenth century frequently acknowledged common cause with the Chartists, and the greatest conservative thinker of the Victorian age, John Ruskin, addressed many of his homilies to the urban working class.  Disraeli was not the inventor of ‘One Nation’ Toryism, but he certainly made clear….that the conservative cause would be lost if it did not also appeal to the new migrants to the industrial towns, and if it did not take their position seriously.  A believable conservatism has to suggest ways of spreading the benefit of social membership to those who have not succeeded for themselves.

That last proposition is just a fact of political life – at least in Australia and England.  (The U S is very different.)  Much later we get –

….civil society depends on the attachments that must be renewed and, in modern circumstances, these attachments cannot be renewed without the collective provision of welfare.

Well, given that we do have and will continue to have the welfare state, is there not some Socialism and Conservatism in all of us – and is not the rest of the discussion just bargaining or posturing about the margins?

Scruton spends a lot of time on the zero sum game fallacy.  ‘The great socialist illusion’ is that ‘the poor are poor because the rich are rich.’  That statement does look rather large – but how would I know?  I can’t recall meeting a Socialist, at least recently, outside the National Party – and I think I would remember.  (I should say that I haven’t met Jeremy Corbyn.)

The author must be right to say that we cannot condemn Nationalism just because it can be abused, and he is right to say that people are entitled to protect their national character against invading religions.  It would be shocking to permit the practice of Sharia law in an open society.  My own view is that historians and philosophers have underquoted on the liberation inherent in the Reformation.

When God makes the laws, the law becomes as mysterious as God is.  When we make the laws, and make them for our purposes, we can be certain what they mean.  The only question is ‘Who are we’?

Now, that statement about our being certain about what we mean is sadly unwarranted, and the other question is how do we know which laws were made by God and which by men?  We only get the laws of God from the mouths of men.

The truth in Capitalism is that ‘private ownership and free exchange are necessary features in any large scale economy – any economy in which people depend for their survival and prosperity on the activities of strangers.’  But we are told that ‘Socialists don’t in their hearts accept this.’  Well, Socialists may not, but the people of China and Russia plainly do.  They have both seen the starvation that otherwise comes about.  Perhaps the professor had in mind Cuba or perhaps he foresaw the fate of Venezuela.

Under the heading Liberalism, there is a very good discussion about the two differing concepts of liberty – the positive and negative.  Scruton is in my view plainly right when he says:

For the search for liberty has gone hand in hand with a countervailing search for ‘empowerment’….Hence egalitarians have begun to insert more positive rights into the list of negative freedoms, supplementing the liberty rights specified by the various international conventions with rights that do not merely demand non-encroachment from others, but which impose on them a positive duty.

The author refers to Article 22 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.  Its terms are unsettlingly wide and they bear the hallmarks of people who may not have had to get their hands too dirty to make a living.  It’s hard to write Kant’s concept of dignity into an international covenant – and be taken seriously.

There are also some helpful remarks on the ‘down with us mentality’ in the discussion of Multiculturalism.  Writing in 2014, Scruton said ‘The dethroning of reason goes hand in hand with a disbelief in objective truth’.  He was certainly a prophet new inspired.

But the book is worth the price for the chapter on Environmentalism.  Why don’t Conservatives want to conserve the earth?

the love of home lends itself to the environmental cause, and it is astonishing that the many conservative parties in the English-speaking world have not seized hold of that cause as their own.

At last – someone who shares my astonishment!  Scruton gives two reasons for the conservative heresy – the ascendancy of economics in the thinking of modern politicians and the agitated propaganda of the other side.  We certainly have seen both here, but are we to remain prisoners of history while we ruin Earth for those who come after us?  Later Scruton says (again, in 2014) that the only nation in the world who can lead it out of the crisis is the U S.  God only knows what he thinks of the U S now.

Under Internationalism, we are told that once again ‘a fundamental truth has been captured by people with an agenda.’  We see this throughout the book – and the writer himself has an agenda.  As someone who has spent a lot of time in universities, Scruton may find it hard to recall too many people who don’t have an agenda.  We see it again on gay marriage.  ‘Only someone with nothing to lose can venture to discuss the issue with the measure of circumspection it invites, and politicians do not figure among the class of people with nothing to lose.’

Later we get another entertaining look at the impact of religion on our communal life.  The French revolutionaries were for the most part manically anti-church.  ‘The Revolutionaries wanted to possess the souls that the Church had recruited…’  That is I think the case.  It’s a theme that recurs in revolutions.

Subsequent revolutions have in like manner regarded the Church as Public Enemy number 1, precisely because it creates a realm of value and authority outside the reach of the state.  It is necessary, in the revolutionary consciousness, to enter that realm and steel its magic.

In the hands of Robespierre, the attempted theft was low farce, but the effort was there.  Burke stated the view that we and England adhere to – ‘that government must hold religion at a distance if it is to maintain civil peace.’  Scruton makes a droll observation on the fact that a majority of English people still put down ‘C of E’ as their religious affiliation.

But that did not imply that they attended an Anglican church – only that they were so far indifferent in the matter as to believe that God would not object to their pretending that they did.

When we finally get to Conservatism, we get a reference to Hegel – which in my view is a heroic flirtation with eternity – and we then get:

What emerges from it is the view of human beings as accountable to each other, bound in associations of mutual responsibility and finding fulfilment in the family and the life of civil society.

If that’s what makes a Conservative, how is he or she different to me or the rest of us?

Well, all these labels are suspect, but in the intellectual desert of Conservatism in Australia this book comes up at us like a Ballarat gold nugget.

Passing Bull 143 – Contradictions in terms


A group of people purporting to be members of our governing parties are acting so as to raise doubts about their sanity or good will – or both.  They were consistently, manifestly, and unrepentantly wrong about climate change.  Now they seek to perpetuate their error, and the consequent harm to the nation, on the issue of energy.  They have formed a group called the Monash Forum.  It is, I gather, what used to be called a ‘ginger group’.  They want a new coal-fired power station run by the government, and, if necessary, paid for by you and me.  It is not surprising that the Monash family are not amused.

The labels ‘conservative’ and ‘populist’ are at best fluid.  So is the term ‘socialist.’  You don’t meet too many of them any more.  For most people, it is a term of abuse.  Most Australians would not regard their federal government as socialist, but most Republicans in America may find it hard to duck applying that label to us.  But however watery the term ‘socialist’ is, it is hard to disagree with Paul Kelly in The Australian when he says:

The idea that drives the latest core conservative revolt — a new coal-fired power station run by the government, if needed — is delusional and flawed at every point. It fails on policy, politics and consumer grounds. The conservatives are becoming coal power socialists. They are losing the plot.

You might imagine a conservative Socialist, but not a socialist Conservative.  (The choice of case is deliberate.)  It is just that contradiction in terms that raises doubts about the sanity or bona fides of these agitators or activists – to invoke other label used to put their objects down.  And it is not as if these activists didn’t have form.

But in analysing this irrational behaviour, Mr Kelly says:

Given Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce as spear carriers, this push is guaranteed to ignite populist conservatives and their media champions across the nation.  The drums will be beating — but many backbenchers have refused to sign.

‘Populist conservative’ is to my mind another contradiction in terms.  People who seek to seduce the gullible are not trying to conserve what is best in our community.  Disraeli and Churchill made a fair fist of a kind of populism, but they were freaks in another era and in another hemisphere.  The nightmare that is called Donald Trump shows how nauseating the cocktail is when you mix conservative and populist.  That is why in my view the media champions that Mr Kelly refers to engage in deception when they call themselves, with unblushing pride, ‘conservatives’.  They’re not and their behaviour is not more attractive because they do it for money.  (The politicians so engaged do it for another well-known evil – faction.)

There is another protean term that Mr Kelly invokes – ‘progressive’.  Well, they must think that all their Christmases have come at once.  Seeking public money for a venture in coal that the banks won’t touch would be an unbeatable way to qualify as the antithesis of ‘progressive.’  It’s not surprising, then, that Mr Kelly concludes his piece this way:

The government seems caught in conflicting emotions. Is it trying to destroy Turnbull’s leadership without having any successor in mind? Is it determined to ignite a new internal brawl over energy policy without having a viable alternative option? Has it given up on the election in pursuit of domestic battles it intends to wage in opposition?

For me it recalls the words of Stephen Sondheim in one of the most beautiful songs ever sung:

Isn’t it rich? Are we a pair?

Me here, at last, on the ground

You in mid-air

Send in the clowns

Isn’t it bliss? Don’t you approve?

One who keeps tearing around

One who can’t move

Where are the clowns?

Send in the clowns

Just when I’d stopped opening doors

Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours

Making my entrance again with my usual flair

Sure of my lines

No one is there

Don’t you love farce?

My fault, I fear

I thought that you’d want what I want

Sorry, my dear

But where are the clowns?

There ought to be clowns

Quick, send in the clowns

What a surprise!

Who could foresee?

I’d come to feel about you

What you felt about me

Why only now, when I see

That you’ve drifted away?

What a surprise

What a cliché

Isn’t it rich?

Isn’t it queer?

Losing my timing this late in my career

And where are the clowns?

Quick, send in the clowns

Don’t bother They’re here.